Jump directly to the content

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2011 > Summer > Next Generation Needs

They are America's most educated generation, most diverse generation, and surprisingly, America's largest generation. They're the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000. And they are beginning to get married, enter the workforce, and lead the world.

This generation is hopeful. In fact, 96 percent of them agree with the statement, "I believe I can do something great." But the majority say individual prominence is secondary to helping the community and accomplishing things for the greater good.

Yet this hopeful generation lacks a solid spiritual foundation on which to base their hopes. As few as one in four attend church weekly. Nearly two-thirds never attend religious services. Church leaders face unique challenges in reaching them.

Older generations tended to place a higher priority on church activity and attendance. The younger generation, however, demands to know the purpose behind each activity. For Millennials, just attending church does not equal faithfulness. The only way they'll attend is if they see the church as being a meaningful part of their lives.

Older generations also were less bothered with uniformity. The homogenous groups championed by the church growth movement worked well with most Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Builders (born prior to 1946). Most Millennials, however, prefer heterogeneous groups. Perhaps this is being driven by the diversification of our culture. For example, preschools are projected to become minority white in 2021. Diversity is normative for Millennials, and they will gravitate toward churches that look like their diverse schools and workplaces.

Authority Remix

Unsurprisingly, the preferred style of leadership has shifted for this next generation. Fading is the era of transactional top-down hierarchies.

Millennials don't reject the idea of authority, but they have redefined how authority is exercised. They tend to follow leaders who operate in a transformational capacity—and ones who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. Rather than telling followers what the big picture is, these leaders allow followers to help create it. Transformational leaders inspire people to reach for a common goal, one developed through a shared vision.

In this environment, equipping and mentoring become more important than directing. Structure is looser, and what structure remains is not an end, but a means of helping people become disciples. Leading the members of the next generation requires a commitment to serve alongside them, not issuing directives from above them.

Appeals to positional authority don't carry weight with younger people. Leaders must assume responsibility to enhance the lives of followers. The debt of authority is the responsibility to sacrifice for followers.

Self-Expression, Corporate Unity

Millennials value churches where each person is empowered to use individual gifts within a unified body. Of course there's often tension between individual expression and corporate unity, yet this generation desires both.

PreviousFirstPage 1 of 2NextLast

Also in this Issue: Summer 2011

When You're UnderminedSubscriber Access Only

What happens when someone disrespects, undermines, or outright defies your pastoral authority?

How Prayer Transforms PrepSubscriber Access Only

Toolkit: Preaching

Authority Deficit DisorderSubscriber Access Only

Why having to earn your authority is a good thing.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

Crab Grass

August 02, 2013  1:24am

Please church and Christians everywhere stop fixating on teens and 20 somethings. The over 30s, 40s, and older are walking out of churches too, but churches and Christian magazines don't care.

Report Abuse

Ben Hood

February 26, 2013  7:39am

I'm a millennial. Is it just me or does this article make us sound like a bunch of dim-witted narcissists with attention spans of a goldfish :) I'd say Jesus is the most important thing we need to let anyone know about! From my Church, I want the wisdom and knowledge from my Elders, my ministers... I want to pick their brain and learn frm them, I want to Know Christ! I'm sure a lot of others want that too.

Report Abuse

Grace Kong

December 26, 2011  4:53pm

this articles remind me of the rapid changes of American next generation

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Editor's Pick
The Secret of Strategic Neglect

The Secret of Strategic Neglect

Bill Hybels on the keys to simpler and more effective leadership.
Sister Sites